steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

The Penelopes

"Eternal Spring" CD

Vaudeville Park Records

Genres: lo-fi, indie pop

2-4-25 Nakasu
Takarazuka, Hyogo
665-0021 Japan

Jul 26 - Aug 1 2004

There's something about Japanese indie pop that very few can resist.  Perhaps its the music's simple melodic charm, or its breezy innocence - or possibly just its relative obscurity for North American fans.  But, regardless of the source of its appeal, I couldn't suppress a smile as I pulled The Penelopes' Eternal Spring out of the stack and gave it a listen.

Upon first encounter, this disc may seem a bit too light for most listeners - Penelopes mastermind Tasuhiko Watanabe works in soft pop territory, combining light, cheery guitars and playful vocals to create a very twee-esque sound.  Many of his songs are really catchy, though a few just sound flat.  "Let's Get Going Again," for example, is pure sixties, but its zippy atmosphere doesn't work well under Eternal Spring's lo-fi production values.  On the other hand, a tune like "From Head To Toe" succeeds because of a loose, downtrodden structure that fits well within Watanabe's recording parameters.

There are many more pleasing moments on Eternal Spring, most of which will thrill fans of Japanese lo-fi music.  "Book of Brilliant Stings" is light and dreamy, "Love Is" could be mistaken for an early Air Supply demo, and "Mrs. Meadow Rue" is a bubbly, rock-opera-esque pop number.  The initially pleasant "Midday Stars" and "Carnival of Slight" can become a bit tiresome after multiple listens, but it's all "Spilt Milk" in the end.

Despite its occasional vapid moments, Eternal Spring is a successful release for Watanabe and friends; its breezy, eternally happy approach won't fail to charm its target audience.


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 15 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2003]